20th Annual LIVESTRONG Austin Marathon
Finisher Medal and T-shirt...
|Bart Yasso & Me|
|One of the biggest Expos I've attended|
|Dick Beardsley & Me|
To go along with the great guest speaker list, this was one of the best race packets I've received for a marathon. The SWAG included a great commemorative LIVESTRONG Austin Marathon Messenger Bag, Spibelt Small Personal Item Belt (given to the first few expo attendees), yellow LIVESTRONG bracelet, Stinger Protein Bar, Gear Check bag, and official race booklet. The entry fee was $100, which is a little high, but overall the event was very well organized and supported, and the "give-aways" in the race bag were a nice bonus for the price.
|Great S.W.A.G. including SPI Belt and Messenger Bag|
This was the largest race expo I've experienced. There were about ten rows - all fifty yards long, of back to back vendors promoting new products and upcoming races. My favorite was the KISS guy who was handing out flyers for the upcoming race called "Hell Run" in Austin, TX later this year. I usually don't stick around at most expos, opting for resting in my hotel room, but I hung out at this one for quite a while. It was a great opportunity to look over new products, meet other runners, and listen to a few great speakers. The only negative about the expo was the $7 to park at the event center, with no validation inside. For $100, I think they should cover the parking, but that's just me being a tight-wad. All in all, it was a GREAT expo!
|Largest State Capital building in the United States|
|Anywhere Willie has his own street is okay by me|
|Austin is the "Food Cart" capital of the world - tons of food trucks & street vendors everywhere|
|Don't mess with Texas ... buses|
|Live music capital of the U.S.|
|NOTHING better than a Mariachi Band at a marathon|
|Hook 'Em Horns (Definitely not a fan when they play Mizzou)|
|Heritage Boot Co.|
|The Texas Longhorn|
|Run Tex Running Store downtown Austin|
As far as volunteers go, all were dressed in green "Race Volunteer" t-shirts, which made them easy to spot. All of the waterstopswaterstop tables on both sides of the street. Although each stop was very long and well organized, there was only one row of water tables. This caused runners who were running on the opposite side of the street at the time, to cross over through marathon traffic to fetch a cup of water. At almost all of the waterstops, the pace slowed down to a walk, and there were several unhappy folks navigating their way through the confusion. I know it's an issue that large races have to deal with, but for such an otherwise perfectly organized race, it was a little surprising that this wasn't handled a little better. However, it in no way negatively influenced my opinion of the race weekend as a whole.
Police support was evident and appreciated at every intersection, and traffic was never a problem. Thank you to all of the law enforcement officers that gave of themselves, not only to help with the race, but also with all they do on a daily basis!
|Hampton Inn Downtown Austin|
I was able to stay at my home away from home Hampton Inn. It was located about a half mile from the start and finish areas, so well within walking distance. The staff was incredibly friendly with great "Southern Hospitality"! Also, there was room service available from P.F. Chang's and a local steak house. The only small criticism of downtown Austin is the lack of parking. I had to have my car valet parked at the Hotel, which meant a tip each time. And as stated earlier, good ol' tight wad Jim doesn't need someone to fetch his car for him thank you. But there were a ton of hotels in the downtown area close to the race, so there was no need for shuttles, which is a great thing about a downtown race.
Race & Course
The race had a customary starting time of 7AM. The gear check tents, located a block from the finish line, were well lit, staffed, and perfectly organized. I literally was able to drop off my bag in about 2 minutes, with no standing in line.
After runners dropped off their bags, there was a 5 or 6 block walk to the starting line, but it didn't really seem that far away due to the giant State Capital building setting in the middle of the path. (It was a little surreal to see runners literally peeing on the State Capital in dimly lit corners. Guess they were messing with Texas a little.) As you made your way to the starting line, the PA Announcer did a great job of keeping you lose and informed of the time and directions to various pace groups. It seemed like, they had every little detail covered.
|Pre-race gear check in the dark|
As advertised, the course was hilly and challenging. Austin is nestled in the "Texas Hill Country", and this is very evident as you trek up and down the seemingly endless rolling hills. And the 65 degree temps with 85% humidity at the beginning of the race did nothing to flatten the landscape. When the sun came out, both rose a little. Also, 15-20 mph winds during the last 5 miles made the hills seem a little tougher.
|Austin Marathon elevation from my Garmin after the race|
|First major stretch of hills up Congress Ave|
The first set of 300ft incline hills took us South on Congress Ave starting at mile 2.5 and peaking at mile 5.5. They didn't seem too bad. Legs were fresh and the pace was pretty slow due to the runner congestion.
The good news was, after reaching the top of this first set of hills, you basically turned around on the next block and ran back down in the other direction. The biggest challenge was controlling your pace on the steep down-hill so you didn't burn up your quads early in the race.
But starting at mile 9, it was GAME ON! This was one of the toughest stretches I've encountered in a marathon.
It was a 350ft incline over the next 10 miles. And it was a real test. However, if you could make it to mile 19, the course got a little easier on the way home. Most of the 10 mile path featured long gradual rolling hills that took you slowly uphill. But there were also several "speed bumps" that were pretty steep, between 11-14% over a quarter mile. Speaking of speed bumps, there several along the course that runners had to navigate. Most of them were pretty evident, but if you weren't paying attention, it would have been pretty easy to turn an ankle or trip.
|Endless up and down rolling hills of the Austin Marathon|
|Jon and me at the Austin Marathon finish line|
As I've mentioned before, one of my favorite things to do after I've showered and recovered a little, is go back down to the finishing area and cheer for the people still finishing the race. It's so great to watch the expressions on their faces as they cross the finish line. Some shout in celebration, forcing a smile to my face. And some break down in tears, which always makes me fight back tears as well. (Hey, I'm emotionally spent after 26 miles, leave me alone!) But spending time with these finishers reminds you what the whole experience is about. I love it, and it always helps cap off the perfect day!
|Post race at Austin|
Was it one of my faster races ... nope. Did I qualify for Boston again ... nope. But did I enjoy almost every single detail of this event ... yep!
I LOVED the whole Austin, TX experience. The 12 hour car drive from my house in Lee's Summit, MO will most likely prevent me from running it again anytime soon, but I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a great race, with a little bit of a challenge.
I had always read about what a great town Austin was and couldn't wait to experience it for myself. I would have loved to spent a whole lot more time there than just a race weekend. But it was an experience that I'll never forget. I couldn't have asked for more for my Texas race. Well done Austin!!!
... be great today!